The young Trayvon’s murder was a particular crime and a particular tragedy but it took place in the context of the persistent race-based murder and the massive unjust incarceration of black and brown youth and men. The particulars of Trayvon’s case are now likely to be addressed given the public uproar over the murder. But the fact that terror against, and oppression of, America’s black and Latino communities serves an economic and political purpose that benefits its purveyors needs to be addressed and redressed, by force if necessary, before it will end.
It is with no small irony that capital accumulation facilitated by slavery lies at the heart of the system of financial capitalism that now holds America hostage. The late, and now infamous, Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers began as a cotton trading shop that profited from labor stolen from slaves. Irony entered when the firm was brought down in some fair measure by its racist “sub-prime” money lending business that targeted African Americans with overpriced home loans when many qualified for lower-cost loans. The result: several generations of accumulated black wealth disappeared in a few days in 2008 along with the firm (one of many) built on stolen wealth.
Today the racist incarceration of black and brown youth and men feeds the for-profit prison system that requires that people be imprisoned for profits to accrue. As articulated below, racist policing practices assure that the socially disadvantaged provide the bodies needed to fill these prisons. And in this racist society African Americans and Latinos are the delegated disadvantaged groups. That this arrangement is a de facto re-institution of slavery is hidden by the fact that all modern day slaves need provide is their bodies, whereas in the prior incarnation labor was also forced from them. (Labor is still forced from the imprisoned but the minimum needed to economically benefit the new slave-masters is a body to fill a cell).
The canard of “crime” reduction used to justify the innocent Trayvon’s murder relies on definitions of criminality devised by the perpetrators of racist violence and by those who benefit economically and politically from the continuation of this system of racial oppression. Even if the innocent Trayvon had been doing what white racists feared that he was, his murder would still have been entirely unjustified by any act short of pulling a loaded gun and threatening to shoot the perpetrator. And if racially neutral definitions of criminality based on actual social harms caused were used most of America’s ruling class would be behind bars.